Monthly Archives: October 2012

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

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Just yesterday I took Bella on a wonderful, brisk autumn walk along a tree-lined tapestry of multi-colored leaves.  It was warmish – like Indian summer, and I remember how exhilarating it felt to stroll along surrounded by this beauty.  It was hard to believe that in a few short days we would be pounded by Frankenstorm, aka Hurricane Sandy.  I looked up into the sky and saw that the storm clouds were already brewing. The wind sock on top of a building was eerily still.  I couldn’t help but imagine how it would soon be flapping wildly. When I returned home I glanced out across the lagoon and saw the ominous site of our neighbor’s house already boarded up. Heavy sigh…

I am a newer resident to this sleepy fishing town on the New Jersey Coast. This is the second time a hurricane is due to hit since I arrived a little over a year ago. The first one side-swiped us, and we were lucky.  This time it doesn’t look as if that will be the case.  In a word, it’s just downright scary.  My stomach has been in knots all day.  We are stressed to the max as we tackle the jobs of buttoning down the hatches around the property – taking planters and bird feeders in, storing lawn chair items in the shed, tying other things down.

I shopped for bottled water – the shelves at Walmart were already cleared out, along with “D” sized batteries for the flashlights, but I managed to find the last box. The local grocery store had the bottled water, so I bought five gallons and two cases along with some food staples.  I filled my car up with gas and got some cash from the bank – did all the things the newscasters are telling us to do.  Speaking of that – I had to turn the television off because the minute-by-minute details are just making me crazy-nervous.  I’ll check later on in the day and first thing in the morning.  A constant thread of news on this hurricane could literally drive you to drink!

I’m so afraid of flooding that I’ve decided to get out of here, although some of the neighbors have chosen to stay.  At least I have a safe place to go over Katie and Blake’s where I’ll be comfortable. I try to go over a list in my head of the things I have to take with me when I evacuate – most importantly, my pets and their food and paraphernalia.  What an ordeal! The cats will have to be crated, which sends them into a tailspin.  I can tell they are already anxious. Or maybe it’s just me.

Another neighbor has boarded up his house and left town.  The neighbors next door have left.  It’s looking a lot like a ghost town.  It’s dark and dreary outside now, and the wind has kicked up tremendously since the morning.  In a few short hours the plummeting will begin.

So, I’m off now to pack.  I gaze out at the gloominess as the day draws to a close, and I whisper a prayer.  One way or another, I know everything will work out the way God has planned.

 

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FAVORITE FALL FUN

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Me and Katie at the farm.

The leaves are falling and the Southern-bound geese are cawing – time for my favorite fall fun!  Sounds corny, doesn’t it? But it is time to harvest the corn after all, so why not?! My family has a lot of fall traditions that mean a lot to us. When my kids were small, apple and pumpkin picking were looked forward to with as much excitement as Christmas morning.  Taking that hay-lined wagon ride out into the crisp autumn fields to choose our wares was a fall rite of passage.  Carving pumpkins was our ultimate pleasure.

Katie mixing her cookie brew!

Halloween cooking baking was the most entertaining.  By the end of the day, the table and floor were covered (as were we) with inches thick of flour, sugar and all kinds of assorted, colored jimmies of every shape and kind. It took a lot of patience because it always turned out to be a big mess, but it never bothered me. I realized this was precious, special time with my kids.

Flour-covered Susezit.

We would then settle into watching “The Worst Witch” all together on the couch under a shared blanket in the dark with candles burning eating our Halloween cookies and milk.  My girls loved it, and so did I!  The movie isn’t scary.  It’s a kids’ movie that lasts just a little over an hour about an awkward young girl trying to make it in a young witch’s academy.  It’s more about doing good over evil, and we’ve been watching it annually since my youngest was 4 years old. I’ve always had a thing for the handsome grand wizard/warlock (much to my children’s chagrin!) played by Tim Curry.  When he says “absolutely” my heart melts!My kids are grown now, but these are still revered traditions.  It’s a little harder with Megan living in Florida, but I know she tortures her fiancé Matt into watching the movie with her each year.  I usually send her the Halloween cookies that Katie and I still bake.  Katie is a die-hard for traditions as well and also tortures her beau Blake with the annual watching of “The Worst Witch.”  Blake also enjoys the pumpkin picking/carving. We’re all kids at heart!

So gather your kids, go out to a farm to pick some apples and pumpkins, carve them, bake cookies, cozy up together, watch “The Worst Witch” and have a very Happy Halloween!

(P.S. I thought I’d share the cookie recipe with you in case you want to make these cookies with your little ghouls and goblins.  It is a recipe I also use for cut-out cookies on all holidays – Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas bells and stars, Valentine hearts and Easter bunnies.)

HOLIDAY SUGAR COOKIES

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. ½ and ½ cream

4 cups flour

2/3 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

Cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla.  Beat well.  Sift flour, soda, salt and baking powder together. Add to butter mixture alternately with cream; chill thoroughly in refrigerator for at least an hour.  Roll very thing.  Use cookie cutters – different shapes.  Bake in 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Icing

1 lb. bag of confectioner’s sugar

½ tsp. of salt

4 tbsp. butter

1 tsp vanilla

Touch of milk to creamy consistently (not too soft but spreadable)

Cream butter; add salt and vanilla and sugar a little at a time with a touch of milk to help in mixing.

Ice cookies and decorate with assorted jimmies.  You can also add a touch of food coloring to the icing if you want different colors.  Place finished cookies on tray and set in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set. Store in air tight container.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRICK OR TREAT

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When I was a kid, Halloween was my second favorite holiday, with Christmas, of course, holding the top spot.  It even surpassed my birthday!  Nothing could match the excitement of going door to door for candy treasures. I was 5 years old when I first went trick or treating and wore a horse costume that my Mom made from brown felt since I was crazy about horses. I came home from school, did my homework really fast and could hardly eat dinner, which was surprising since it was my favorite – pizza!  I just couldn’t contain the butterflies in my stomach.  By the time I dressed into my costume, grabbed my pillow case, which served as a candy bag, and raced out the door, my heart was thumping with anticipation.  Off we went into the darkness, my brother and I, with my Dad trailing somewhere behind.  As we grew up, we eventually went out on our own and scoured every neighborhood in the tri-state area.  We were relentless Halloweeners. “Trick or Treat!” we’d shout gleefully at each door.  In those days, you were sometimes required to do a little dance or song for a treat, but thankfully, it was not that often.  In return, you got a full-sized bar of candy, not the little snack or fun sizes. You could go into a sugar comma from one of those bars!

When my brother and I got home, we immediately poured our treasures out onto the table and started lining up same-kind candy and trading for our favorites.  Mine is, and continues to be, Mr. Goodbar with Hershey’s Almond bar coming in a close second. There was no need to examine each and every piece for tampering since it was a different world where things were safe.  We would get a few apples that we immediately pawned off to our parents who actually seemed to like them.  Some people would throw a few pennies or a nickel in our bag, which we used for penny candy at the corner store. Then we stuffed our faces to our heart’s content until our lips were glazed with chocolate residue. Of course, we tossed and turned all night due to the sugar rush, then dreamt of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

Costumes were also a little different then the extravagant styles of today.  Most of the time, we came up with our own from whatever was in the house.  Being a “bum” was popular because we could just wear old clothes and tater them up a bit. Dad’s old hat was the topper.  A ghost was an old sheet with the eyes and mouth cut out.  If you were lucky enough to take dancing lessons, you used your tutu to be ballerina. A flannel shirt and jeans with a neckerchief made you a cowboy. Add suspenders to that and you were a farmer. Dressing in black with a pointed hat made out of stapled cardboard made you a witch. We were very creative and clever kids, and it was fun to use our imaginations to come up with stuff. There was no such thing as a costume store, and we were definitely not looking to make a fashion statement.

In our neighborhood the “pièce de résistance” would be snagging a homemade red-glazed candy apple from the house up the street on the corner. A plain apple was no big deal, but coat it with sugary glaze, and it became a prized conquest. Of course, every kid in the neighborhood ran to that house first, so you had to get there early before the limited quantity ran out. Since we knew the family, there was no need to worry about contents. Sometimes their kids would hide in the brush, jump out and scare the bahjeepers out of us, so we really had to weigh the worth of those candy apples! One year we successfully made our way through the scary darkness of their tree and brush covered yard in the misty rain only to find they had decided not to make them that year.  That was a real disappointment.

The sweets we attained filled at least two boxes and were stored on the top of the refrigerator so my Mom could monitor our intake.  Of course, I realize now that Mom and Dad had a hand in the disappearance of a good fraction of the goodies. No problem.  We savored those tasty morsels until well into the Thanksgiving season.

So, get your caldrons out and mix up an eye-of-newt spooky, toe-of-frog scary, outrageously Happy Halloween!  Pleasant nightmares…bahaha…

 

LITTLE GIRL WITH THE CURL IN THE MIDDLE OF HER FOREHEAD

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I saw a little girl in the park the other day, whom I would guess to be about four years old, riding her shocking pink bike alongside her mom who was jogging. I spotted a silver tiara peeking out under her bike helmet that was as strikingly pink as her bike.  She wore a leotard, jean shorts, sported a tutu and brown cowboy boots.  In the front bike basket was a Barbie doll faced forward looking out and in the back basket was a baby doll with another Barbie sitting on her lap.  She was sure and confident and chatted animatedly with her mom about what seemed like something very important as she rode along.  I found myself smiling.

Four-year-old Susezit

I was that same little girl a hundred years ago, exuding the same self-confidence, “I’ll wear what I want” fashion sense, love of bikes and all things pink and western. I, too, cared about getting my dolls out to see the world (mine would go camping under a tree in my backyard).  I was also jewelry and nail polish crazy, and my parents couldn’t seem to keep me in those little plastic high heels with the elastic bands that you find in toy stores.  I guess you would describe me at that time as avant garde.

As you grow and life and people get in the way of who you are and dictate who you should be, you forget sometimes who you were.  You conform and you change and you go along with what others decide is the “norm” so you won’t be considered an outsider or weird.  You get so caught up in fitting in that you eventually forget who you used to be.

It’s wonderful to get a reminder now and again of the unblemished, untouched version of your youthful self when the world was your oyster and all of your dreams would come true. And if you’re lucky enough to realize what you’ve lost and want to go back to the free spirit you used to be, you have to brush off the conventional terms and dictates of those you somehow listened to and changed for. You have to question your capabilities and decide if who you are is making you happy, or if you have to go back and rediscover who you used to be in order to find that joy again.

In any case, I think I’ll go take a spin on my bike while I decide…